DISCLAIMER: An oldie but a goodie – A Priest, a Rabbi and an Irishman all walked into a bar. The bartender looked up and asked, "what is this, a joke?"
Chapter One – Addiction
He peeked into the lounge room, dark eyes narrow and angry as he peered around the room.
The weird woman with the big eyes had told him to go into the lounge room and play. She dressed like his teacher, so he didn't really trust her, but there didn't seem to be any blackboards in here. There were a lot of toys and a big TV, as well as a huge, squishy couch. He eyed it carefully, then crept into the room.
Nothing moved. He looked around again, suspicious of empty rooms with so many toys. Rooms with all this kind of stuff always had lots of kids. He crept over to the toy box, and opened it slowly. No, nothing hiding in there but more toys. He picked one out—a cool dinosaur with lots of spikes—and turned around, frowning at the rest of the room.
His eyes narrowed again, flashing red as he noticed movement behind the couch. He gripped his dinosaur tightly and moved toward it, crouching down to a crawl as he got to the armrest. He hesitated, then pounced, holding his dinosaur at the ready to attack.
But there was no one there.
He blinked at the space, before something tapped his hair and he looked up. A pair of wide purple eyes twinkled at him over the arm of the couch, and a small stuffed dog came down to gently push its nose against his forehead. "Gotchya," said a soft voice.
He continued to stare up at the stuffed dog until it was moved away, revealing a boy with short dark hair and long blond bangs. The boy grinned. "He'lo."
He turned around, still on his knees. "You're s'posed to say 'good morning'."
"Morning," he parroted, then blinked once and recited, "My name is Yuugi and I am four years old. Nice to meet you." He made the stuffed dog bow. "And this is Green."
"But he's not green."
"I know. But I'm not a yuugi either," said Yuugi, and he found he couldn't argue with that.
"My name is Atemu," he said. "And I'm four years and three months old."
"And that's Rekusu," said Yuugi, pointing to the dinosaur. Atemu looked at it, then back up at Yuugi, who continued to gaze at him quietly. "You're not a very good hunter."
"Am so!" he said angrily, straightening his shoulders. "I'm a real good hunter. I knew you were behind here!"
"But I caught you," he pointed out. "Me and Green climbed over the back of the couch and caughted you."
He frowned, folding his arms, but Yuugi just smiled. "But it's not real fair. I mean, me and Green've known each other for ages, and you only just met Rex, so there's no teamwork. An' teamwork is the only way you can win at anything. Wanna play again? Just me and you?"
Atemu stared at him for a few seconds in disbelief. "You really wanna play with me?" he asked, but Yuugi just blinked at him again. "None of the kids at my old playgroup ever wanted to play with me."
He didn't answer, just lay a finger on his cheek, near his eye. Yuugi slowly climbed down to sit on the floor beside him, then leaned in to look at him closely. Atemu stared at how big Yuugi's own eyes were, while the other boy appraised the funny colouring of his new playmate. He'd thought they were brown at first, but now he could see they were actually a weird red colour.
Yuugi suddenly laughed, sitting back on his heels. "Pretty!"
Atemu stared. "Huh?"
"You have pretty eyes. Like a white bunny rabbit," he said, and pushed Green's nose up against Atemu's lips. "All pretty and stuffs."
Atemu faultered, unable to think of a reaction to such a bright smile, until Yuugi put Green down on the floor and jumped to his feet. "Okay. Can you count to ten?"
"I can count to a hundred," he boasted, folding his arms.
"Wow! Then you count to ten and I'll go hide! Then you come find me, okay?"
"Okay!" he said brightly, then covered his eyes. "One, two, three…"
"Eight, nine, ten. Okay, that's it."
Yuugi looked up from his work, blinking in surprise. "You're done already?"
"Yep. Thirty-four funbags with ten snakes in each," announced Atemu, finishing the bow on the last bag and tossing it on the pile. "And we've still got three left. One for you, one for me and one for Lady and the Tramp."
Yuugi rolled his eyes at the reference, but didn't say anything, simply going back to his wrapping paper. Atemu's little sister was having her tenth birthday party, and she said it was probably the last year she would be able to get away with funbags and games, so she was making the most of it. Unfortunately, this meant the party would be a lot of work, and since he didn't have anything better to do, Atemu had been dragged into helping with the preparations, and he had then pulled his best friend along for the ride. While Atemu had claimed funbags, Yuugi had been handed an armful of crappy toys and wrapping paper, then told to make a pass-the-parcel. It was taking a lot longer than he'd thought it would.
Atemu sat back to watch him, smiling absently. "You know, you'd make a good elf."
"Like for Christmas. You know, Santa's elves?"
Yuugi stuck his tongue out at him. "Your parents should be paying me for this. I mean, fourty layers?"
He shrugged. "What Dendera wants, Dendera usually gets," he said, and popped a snake into his mouth. "And if I have to suffer, then so do you, aibou."
"Would you quit calling me that?" he said, playfully kicking out at him. "I don't get what your deal is."
"I dunno. But everyone at school calls you Yuugi; I want to be able to call you something different," he said, and picked up the green snake to dangle over Yuugi's head. He had made sure two of the last snakes were green; Yuugi loved green snakes. His friend leaned his head back, mouth open, and Atemu lowered it past his lips. "I mean, you get to call me Atemu when no one else does, so I want a special name for you."
"Yeah, but aibou?" he asked around the snake. "I mean, where'd that even come from?"
"Why am I not surprised?" he muttered. "Try and think of something else, huh?"
"How about… pretty-boy?"
Yuugi tossed the closest plastic toy at his head. "I am not a pretty-boy, pretty-boy."
"No, but you are cute."
"Oh, bite me. But speaking of," he said suddenly, looking up. "That Sakita girl has a thing for you."
"Sakita? The one with the headband?" he asked, pointing at his head, and Yuugi nodded.
"She asked Anzu to ask me to ask you if you liked her," he explained. "So. Do you like her?"
He shrugged. "Not really."
Yuugi smiled, shaking his head as he finished taping another layer in place. "The girls are all going to go mad before the year's out," he said. "Come on, Atemu, you're gonna be fourteen next month. There's gotta be some girl you like."
"Nope," he said, leaning back on his hands. "Never really noticed them much."
"Oh yeah? And what about you, love-machine? What girl do you like?"
He blinked, then blushed, looking down at his parcel. "No one…"
Atemu's smile faded, staring at him. He hadn't even considered the possibility of Yuugi liking someone, before. "Who is it?"
His blush increased a little. "Anzu…"
"Anzu? You like Mazaki?" he cried, sitting up. "But she's so…! How could you like Mazaki?"
"She's really nice."
"She's so pushy! She's… she's so…!" He made a rapid hand movement, clearly stating something so terrible it was beyond words.
Yuugi smiled shamefully, fingering the paper he was about to cut. "I like her… I don't know why, I just do."
"Hmph," was all Atemu could say, sitting back on his hands again. He had suddenly decided he was in a lousy mood.
Yuugi shook his head with a smile. "Okay then. If you could have the perfect girl in the world, what would she be like? Personality-wise."
He looked at him sideways, then rolled his eyes, accepting the topic. "The exact opposite of Mazaki," he said firmly. "She'd be quiet, and shy, but I would be able to make her talk. She wouldn't be that funny, but she'd still have a sense of humour, and she'd be really fun to just sit and talk with. She'd be the type of person you can just sit down and watch TV with, or play a game. You wouldn't have to be all romantic with her. She'd be a great cook, and really polite, and really cute."
"I said personality-wise," Yuugi reminded him, not even looking as he began cutting his next square of paper.
"Cute can be a personality. You have a cute personality."
"I am not freaking cute!"
Atemu blinked, then swore as Yuugi quickly brought his hand out from under the paper, blood already seeping down to his palm. "Yuugi! Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I just nicked it on the scissors," he said irritably, and stuck the offending finger in his mouth to suck off the blood. "Just needs a band-aid. You got any on hand?"
"Gimme a sec. Don't move," he ordered, and Yuugi absently smiled at the familiar protectiveness as Atemu rushed out of the room. They had been friends since before Yuugi could remember, and Atemu had always gotten overly worked up about his little injuries. When Atemu got hurt, it was always 'nothing', but if Yuugi so much as scraped his knee it was a medical emergency. He could remember breaking his arm once when he was ten, and Atemu had apparently refused to sleep until he actually saw Yuugi and personally made sure he was okay.
It had been hilarious at the time, but these days Yuugi just found it kind of… he wouldn't say sweet (he got enough flak about being girly without using words like that…), but it was definitely enough to make him smile a little fondly.
Atemu returned with a bandage and disinfectant, which made Yuugi scrunch his nose in annoyance. "It doesn't need that."
"You're not getting infected on my watch," said Atemu, gripping Yuugi's wrist to pull his finger out. He examined it, scowling at the long split up Yuugi's finger. "Nicked, huh?"
He made a small noise in the back of his throat, waving his other hand dismissively. Atemu shook his head and quickly set about cleaning and bandaging the finger. He didn't have Yuugi's natural talent at first aid, but he wasn't that bad at it.
When he was done, Atemu looked up to meet Yuugi's gaze, but stopped at his resigned smile. He blinked, swallowing as he felt a faint stirring in his stomach that was starting to become familiar. It kind of felt the same as going on stage, and it had been happening for about a year now, at irregular intervals that he couldn't explain. He swayed forward a little, his fingers curling further around Yuugi's hand. "Na… Yuugi…?"
"Well, I guess it does feel a little better," he said, and Atemu flinched, the deadpan of Yuugi's tone jerking him out of his strange haze. "Course, I may still have to sue for the emotional damage of you poisoning me with disinfectant…"
He laughed, pushing down the hitch in his breathing, and sat back. "And what do you expect to get out of it?" he asked playfully. "Half the stuff I own is actually yours!"
"I want a hamburger. You want hamburgers?"
"Mm… I want onion rings…"
"Those things are disgusting."
"Whatever. We've still got stuff to do for Dendera's party. You want me to finish that?"
"Nah, it's okay. I just wasn't paying attention."
Atemu frowned, but didn't comment as Yuugi went back to wrapping the parcel. The weird feelings were starting to happen more and more often, lately, and it was really starting to worry him.
"I am never going to understand your obsession with manga, Atemu."
"I don't have an obsession," he said, flipping through a few pages of his book. "It just so happens that a few of the things I like happen to be manga. You have an obsession with games. I just happen to like manga."
As usual, Yuugi chose to ignore him. He was lying back on Atemu's bed, reading the most well-read of his best friend's manga, trying to find a reason to like it. "I guess the art is okay. But what's with the characters? And the plots. I mean… some spirit trapped in a game?"
"You know, aibou, you're kind of annoying," said Atemu, standing up to shift onto the bed.
He blushed despite himself, trying to glare. "It must be from spending so much time around you. And would you stop with the aibou thing already?"
He smiled, lying down on his side beside him, propped up on his elbow. "What would you rather I called you?"
"I don't know," he said, blushing again.
Atemu smiled, his hand reaching up to brush down Yuugi's cheek, then down around the back of his jaw, where he flattened his fingers to cup the back of Yuugi's neck. He slowly leaned down, brushing his lips over Yuugi's. When he pulled back, Yuugi was still smiling at him, though this time with the gentle softness that he hadn't seen since he'd last been sick.
"Atemu, my finger still hurts," he said quietly, and Atemu frowned, leaning back.
Yuugi raised it up for him to see, and he took it gently, turning it the better to see. The cut was deeper and bleeding again.
"I'll make it better," he murmured, and raised the finger to his lips. Yuugi merely watched as Atemu softly kissed the tip of his finger, then moved downward, kissing along the cut. It healed as he went, until he reached Yuugi's palm. The cut kept going, sliding down his arm and up under his shirt. Atemu continued to follow it, kissing and gently touching, not even noticing as Yuugi's shirt disappeared from existance, and the cut began running up his shoulder to his neck.
One of his hands found Yuugi's hip, and he rolled over so he was lying on top of him, kissing a new path around Yuugi's neck and jaw, sucking on the points where they met.
"Mm… that feels so much better," breathed Yuugi, but Atemu didn't answer as thin arms snaked their way around his shoulders, pulling him closer.
He was suddenly at Yuugi's mouth, his tongue pushing over Yuugi's with only enough resistance to make it interesting. He had never kissed anyone before, but it was just like in the movies, and just the way people described. Yuugi was hot and wet and so perfect that he found himself rocking upward, pushing him further into the bed the deeper the kiss went.
Yuugi's hand buried into his hair, but both of his hands had moved to Yuugi's hips, gripping and pulling, but suddenly they weren't resting on the worn denim jeans Yuugi always wore outside school, or even the cheap cotton boxers Atemu made fun of him for owning. They were on pure, untouched skin. Soft and smooth and so totally his that he stretched his fingers out for more.
"Yeah, come on, get up."
The heat suddenly disappeared, and he found he wasn't lying on top of anything anymore. He blinked, and found himself staring at a badly embroidered tiger, barely recognisable in the dim light. He blinked again, pushing himself up, and realised where he was.
He and Yuugi had fallen asleep after Dendera's party, Yuugi falling on the couch while Atemu had curled up on the pile of cushions he was supposed to be cleaning up. He slowly turned his head, paling when he realised Yuugi was kneeling beside him, smiling wearily.
"It's almost six in the morning, I'm gonna head on home. I figure you should probably go to bed before Dendera's friends wake up and maul you."
He found himself staring blankly as he ran back over his dream. "You… you're going home?"
"Mm. I was supposed to get back, like, seven hours ago. Come on, get up," he said, poking his shoulder gently.
He blinked yet again, and started to get up, until he noticed a strong pulse between his legs. He swallowed, shifting back down again. So that was why he was feeling so uncomfortable. "Uh… actually, Yuugi, I think I might stay here."
"You sure? It doesn't looked very comfortable…"
"Oh, actually, it really is…" he said quickly, and Yuugi frowned.
"Are you okay? You sound kind of weird…" He reached out, pressing his hand against Atemu's cheek. "You're really warm. Do you think you're getting sick?"
"No, no… just fine…"
"Well… okay… I can stay, just to make sure. You want me to help you get up to bed, or…?"
Atemu's eyes widened as he felt a formerly unknown part of his mind smirk. "No!" he shouted, and Yuugi flinched back, his hand snapping back to his chest. Atemu turned away, defensive. "I'm fine, Yuugi, I don't need your help."
He hesitated, then ducked his head, looking at him worriedly. "Are you sure? You don't seem –"
"I said I'm fine," he snapped, and Yuugi pulled back again, hurt.
"Well… okay…" He slowly got to his feet. "I'll just… head off then…"
"Yeah, okay," he said quickly, his tone harsher than he'd meant it to be. "Bye."
Yuugi frowned, but didn't say anything as he picked up his bag, and kept silent until he was at the door. "I'm leaving…"
Atemu didn't look around, just trying to fight down his blush and stop that goddamn embarrassing… thing between his legs. The door closed behind Yuugi, and Atemu buried his face in his hands.
It wasn't until a few days later that Yuugi made a point of seeing Atemu again. They were in different classes, and Atemu had clean up duty that week, but he hadn't been stopping by Yuugi's class during lunch and recess like he usually did, so he was starting to think he had done something wrong.
He poked his head into the classroom, checking to make sure there was no one else there still. Atemu was scrubbing desks, his eyes blank from the monotonous work.
The dark hand jerked, splashing a puddle of soapy water onto the floor. Yuugi cringed. "Sorry, I didn't mean to scare you."
Atemu raised his head, and Yuugi frowned at the painfully even look he was getting.
"You haven't been coming by for breaks, I thought I'd just come say hi," he explained, suddenly feeling nervous. "So, uh… hi."
"Hi," agreed Atemu, his voice strangely gruff. His hand was visably clenched around the rag, the soap suds squeezing out through his fingers to drip loudly against the floor.
Yuugi shifted uncomfortably, gripping his elbow. "Um… Atemu… I… is something wrong?"
"Like… like you haven't been by to see me lately, or called or anything."
He didn't answer, glancing away for a bare instant before looking back at him. "So?"
"And whenever I call you, you're always too busy to talk or come over," he added. "And when I come by your class, you're always studying or something."
"It's almost exams."
He looked away again, scowling. "So? I've been busy, deal with it."
Yuugi flinched at the cold tone, hunching further in on himself. "Um… Atemu… did I do something wrong?" he asked nervously. "Only… ever since Sunday morning you've been kinda—"
"Dammit, Yuugi, I just haven't had the time, is that such a big deal?" he spat, and Yuugi jumped, his eyes widening at the anger in his voice. "I have a life outside you, you know! You make it sound like we're dating or something!"
"I – I didn't mean –"
"Because we're not! We're two guys that have nothing in common," he said loudly. "Have you ever thought that maybe I just want some time to myself? Maybe I don't want to spend every waking minute with you?"
"Atemu, I… What's going on here, I thought –"
"Well, you shouldn't think so much, then, should you?" he snapped. "Just leave me alone, okay?"
"I said get out!"
Yuugi stared at him, shocked. "What on Earth's gotten in to you?"
"You, Yuugi, that's what!" he shouted, and pointed at the door. "Get out!"
He fell back a few steps, his hands rising on defensive impulse. They stared at each other for a few moments, before Yuugi smiled gently, his shoulders dropping. "Okay… but… when everything's okay again, then I'll be here. I just want to help you."
Atemu continued to stare at him for a long moment, his breathing beginning to quicken, brow furrowing angrily. "I don't want your help."
Yuugi just smiled and nodded. Sometimes Atemu got into lousy moods like this, and would be defensive and demand to be left alone until he worked it out himself. But he always came back in the end. "I'll be here," he promised, and slipped back out into the corridor.
Atemu glared at the closed door for a few moments, then yelled out, throwing his rag at the door. It hit hard, causing a sickening wet splat that left a trail of black water behind it, but he didn't even notice, punching the desk in front of him and sliding down to his knees.
It was getting worse.
Buckled black bloots clunked each time they hit the ground, dominating and threatening with each graceful step. Their studded straps jangled slightly with the movement, but were generally muffled by the simple blue uniform that covered them to the ankles.
He was an impressive sight for someone that barely covered a hundred and seventy centimetres. His clear skin was perfectly bronzed despite the cool temperature, and his eyes were sharp, bloody red orbs. The usually unassuming high school uniform only made him seem more majestic, with his jacket unbuttoned and flaring out behind him.
He was cold, and seemed far older than the uniform would have his passerbys believe, but there was something in his exotic looks that made several people follow him with their eyes, wishing he would glance their way.
But he never did. He had only started walking to school this year, always taking the long route that led him through the shopping district. He paused on a street corner, nonchalently holding his bag over his shoulder to watch the shop on the other side of the street.
Once again, his detour had proved fruitless.
These days Yuugi always had friends to walk him to school.
Atemu sighed, watching as Yuugi stepped out of the shop, apologising at his friends' complaints at the time. Anzu automatically bent over a little, straightening Yuugi's uniform while he laughed bashfully. After she had finished, and the group had all said their good mornings, they started off down the street, and Atemu could continue on to school, his eyes trailing regretfully over the group. He could have been one of them.
It had been almost four years since his big screw up, and in that time, Atemu had become the epitome of 'cool', whatever that meant. According to what people told him, he was the most popular person in school, and he knew well from his overflowing locker that he had more than his fair share of admirers. He didn't go out of his way to have anyone like him—in fact his sister regularly informed him he did the opposite—but for some reason, that only made him seem better.
But he couldn't even catch the eye of the one person he wanted to.
Not understanding what he'd been feeling at fourteen had caused him to lash out, distancing himself from Yuugi completely. At first, Yuugi had continued to smile at him in the halls and say hello, but after almost a full semester of being ignored or even insulted, he stopped trying, and began avoiding Atemu whenever he could.
By summer break of third year, Atemu had realised what was 'wrong' with him, but by then it was too late. Yuugi wouldn't even meet his eyes when they passed in the corridor. It was probably just as well, he had reasoned at the time. He was pretty sure Yuugi was straight, and he wouldn't have wanted to screw up any chance of a friendship they had left with this bombshell.
He tried to start over, to be friends with him again, but everytime he even saw Yuugi, he started to panic and get tongue tied. So he did everything else he could think of. He watched out for him, and dealt with the jerks that tried to pick on him. He would leave little presents or typed notes in Yuugi's desk or locker on his birthday or holidays. It had been a problem when high school had come up, but Dendera must have been feeling generous or something because she had her little network of friends find out where Yuugi was going, and Atemu had followed, despite it being one of the cheaper and unacademic schools.
The Freshman ski trip had been when Atemu was going to finally talk to him again. But then something extremely weird had happened, and less than a month before, Yuugi developed this ragtag group of extremely clingy friends. Mazaki, two guys called Bakura, two former bullies and occasionally Seto Kaiba the billionaire. Worse still, they were good friends. And they had stuck by him all through high school, right up until this year, third year, and now…
He scowled jealously, shoving his hands further into his pockets. They were all in his class this year, and so every time he looked around, he got to see them all being good friends together. Jounouchi, one of the former-bullies, was particularly tactile when it came to Yuugi, and it irritated Atemu to no end. Even more annoying was watching his childhood friend interact with the two Bakuras, who were very open about their relationship. He hated the fact that Yuugi was so okay with it. It would be easier to deal with his own stupidity if Yuugi was a bigot or something.
Jounouchi suddenly tackled Yuugi, dragging him up into the air in a playful hug, shouting something about being the 'macho-man Katsuya Jounouchi-sama', and Atemu sighed, watching as Yuugi started laughing and fighting back as well he could.
He scowled, kicking the road gate in absent frustration. That could have been him wrestling Yuugi to the ground…
"The summer camp? Why?"
"Why? What do you mean why?" asked Otogi, grinning. He and Atemu had been drafted into returning the sports equipment, and now they were returning to the classroom, still feeling hot and sticky and carrying their jackets over their shoulders. "Because it's the last school trip we're ever gonna have. We have to go and live it up!"
"But it's in the summer holidays. It's an extra couple of hundred thousand yen I'm gonna need one day and don't want to waste with the rest of the senior class," he said, rolling his eyes. "If it were a break from practice exams then yeah, I'd go for it, but as it is…"
"But it's on the beach! They're hiring out a whole beach; you've gotta come, it's gonna be awesome!"
"And I say to you again: no," he said, shaking his head in disbelief that Otogi didn't understand. "Sitting on a beach just so a few hundred fangirls can sit around and gawk at me in a swim suit does not interest me."
"But think of all the lovely views you'll get in return!" he argued, and Atemu rolled his eyes again, pausing outside the classroom.
"How many times have I got to tell you? Right now, I'm not looking to hook up with anything other than I always have been."
"I still don't see why you won't tell me who this mystery guy is."
"Because you would make a deal out of it and probably tell him!" he said, and Otogi shrugged his concession. Atemu turned to classroom door, but it slid open before he could touch it, and Jounouchi and his friend Honda sprinted around them deftly. Atemu blinked. "What the –?"
"Jounouchi, Honda, you are both so dead!" screeched a girl's voice, and suddenly Anzu Mazaki appeared in the doorway. She ducked around Otogi with the grace only a dancer can manage and took off after them, holding a metre ruler like a sword.
"Anzu-chan, wait, you don't want to do that!" cried Ryou Bakura, and Atemu had to jump out of the way to miss him. "Think of the school property cost!"
"It's worth it!" she yelled over her shoulder, and Ryou moaned before running after her.
The two boys waited for a moment, half expecting someone else to run out, before peering into the classroom. They blinked, before Tsuyoshi Makinda—better known simply as 'Bakura'—shot to his feet. "Dammit, Ryousei!"
"Bakura-kun, don't!" cried Yuugi, but his hand, outstretched in warning, was only grabbed in response, and Bakura physically dragged him along as he ran toward the door.
Atemu fell back, but Otogi only smiled, half crouching down. When Bakura flashed past, he darted out, snatched Yuugi around the chest and spun until he was pulled free. Yuugi, unprepared to be saved, fell forward, tripped over his own feet and crashed to the floor in front of Atemu. Bakura continued running regardless, and Otogi crouched down beside Yuugi.
"Hey… are you alright, Yuugi-kun?"
"Nnn… yeah, thanks, Otogi-kun," mumbled Yuugi, slowly pushing himself up onto his elbows. "But you probably shouldn't have done that. Bakura-kun's on probation with the school board, I should be there to calm him down…"
Atemu had frozen when Otogi had grabbed Yuugi, and now he just stared, wide-eyed, as Otogi helped Yuugi to his feet.
"I'm sure it'll be fine. They'll just blame Jounouchi-kun again. What happened?"
"Oh, it is was just that…" Yuugi trailed off, having finally caught sight of Atemu. He blushed, looking down at his feet. "Just the usual… I should go – go help Jounouch-kun and… stuff…"
"Need a hand?"
"No, it's fine. Thank you, Otogi-kun," he said quietly, keeping his head down as he walked past. Otogi absently waved as he turned back to Atemu, who stared at him.
"Since when do you know Yuugi?"
"Huh? Yuugi-kun?" he glanced back over his shoulder, shrugging. "He was in my class last year, and we started hanging out together since all my friends from first year were in your class."
"How come you never told me?"
He shrugged again, raising an eyebrow. "You aren't exactly the type to care," he said, leading the way inside.
"Well, yes, but no one talks to Yuugi Mutou," he said, still staring as they made their way back to Otogi's desk. "And he was talking to you like you were one of those weird friends of his. How'd you get to know him that well?"
"Oh, that. Well, you know…" He grimaced, turning around to sit on his desk. He waited for Atemu to stop in front of him before continuing, "My father kinda kidnapped him last year, and –"
"His grandfather sent my father broke back in the seventies," he said, carefully avoiding Atemu's gaze. "And last year, one thing led to another, and he… you know… But Yuugi-kun eventually got out, and with no hard feelings, so it all worked out okay."
Atemu stared at him, and Otogi smiled. "He's a really nice guy. Bit of a pushover, and his friends are weird, but hey, who am I to talk?" he joked, then grinned, straightening up a little. "Hey, you're into Duel Monsters, right? Yuugi-kun's family owns a game shop, I should introduce you guys! Yuugi's grandfather always gives his friends wholesale prices!"
He stiffened, barely hiding the panic that came up from that suggestion. Yuugi still never met his eyes, and he knew from passing the game shop every now and again that Sugoroku definitely did not like him as much as he once had. "Oh, no, you don't need to do that," he said quickly. "Really."
"No way! You guys'd get along great! You've got that whole hidden nice guy thing going on, and Yuugi-kun's actually got quite a personality under the 'I'm invisible' thing," he said brightly, as if he had suddenly had the best idea in the world. "And common interests – look at the hair!"
"Really, Otogi, you don't need to do that," he said firmly.
"Here's something weird for you. You know that necklace you bought last month? Yuugi-kun's got one just like it. You guys've got the same taste and everything!"
"Drop it, would you?" he said darkly.
"And hey, talk about coincidence. Yuugi-kun's had problems with almost all the guys you've…" He trailed off, eyes widening. Atemu's shoulders immediately squared, his fists shoving into his pockets as he waited for Otogi to finish his thought. "All the guys you've beaten up on have been the ones to give Yuugi-kun a hard time…"
"That's some weird coincidence," he said gruffly, and inwardly winced at his own practically see-through attempt to derail him. "You think they're taking it out on him?"
"Maybe… except you usually start hating them after they do stuff to Yuugi-kun…"
He didn't say anything, keeping his stance in place. Otogi grinned evilly. "Ohh… Yamino-kun…"
"Do I not need to introduce you to Yuugi-kun because you don't want me to… or because you already know him?" he asked, his grin widening at Atemu's slightly narrowed glare.
"Of course I know him. He's in our class, isn't he?"
He smirked. "Oh, I don't believe this…"
Atemu lifted his chin a little, raising an eyebrow impatiently. "What?"
"The person you never tell me about… the one you've known and wanted ever since I met you… the one you're always day dreaming about…" He chuckled. "…is Yuugi-kun?"
He swallowed, lifting his chin a little higher. "No."
"NO WAY!" he shouted, jumping off his desk to point at him. "I don't believe it! It can't be!"
"It isn't!" he snapped, his suddenly widened eyes darting around in embarrassment at the curious stares around them. "Otogi, shut up!"
"You gave him the silver necklace with the eagle," he hissed quietly, coming close again. "That's why I never see you wear it, because it's around Yuugi-kun's neck!"
"Shut up!" he snarled through clenched teeth.
"You beat up on those guys to protect Yuugi-kun; you're why they don't bother him twice!" he said excitedly. "You go left instead of right when you walk home from school because you're actually going to Yuugi-kun's house!"
"Otogi, if you don't shut up right now, I'm going to hit you so hard your grandkids'll have mental problems," he growled, and Otogi finally stopped talking, smirking instead. Atemu glared at the surrounding students, but luckily Otogi had been whispering, so none of them had actually heard. They were just curious over his initial shout. They looked away at Atemu's glare, and he scowled, turning back to Otogi.
"You're half right," he admitted quietly. "But if you breathe a word, I swear to the gods of every religion out there that you will not live to breathe another."
"Oh, oh yeah," he said, playfully crossing his heart. "Won't tell a soul that the big bad Yamino-kun is in love with cute little Yuugi-chan…"
He grabbed the front of Otogi's shirt, yanking him close, and Otogi flinched, his jaw shutting with an audible click.
"Okay, okay, I'll shut up. Just… what do you mean 'half right'?"
He glared at him for another few seconds before dropping him back down on the desk. "Yuugi and I used to be friends in lower school… and middle school. But I screwed it up in second year and we haven't talked since."
Otogi frowned, pushing himself upright on the desk. "How do you mean?"
He grimaced, looking away. Having a few of the same tendencies himself, Otogi has figured out Atemu's orientation only a few days after meeting him for the first time. But that didn't mean Atemu was particularly comfortable with telling him, or anyone, about his screw up. "Yuugi was the first guy I… He was the first anything I ever really noticed that way," he said quietly. "I didn't get what was going on, and…"
"Ohh… First realisation is always bad…" Otogi winced. "And you were friends too…"
"Not just friends. We had spent pretty much every minute of the day together since we were four."
He nodded, leaning back on the chair behind him, arms folded defensively. "I figured the only way to make it all stop was to stop hanging out with Yuugi."
"Not good…" he observed, then blinked. "But then what's with the necklace and following him home?"
He shrugged, his ears heating up a little. "It was for his birthday. I just left it in his locker."
"How precious," teased Otogi, and Atemu glared at him.
"Shut up. I couldn't exactly give it to him in person," he said, hunching over a little. "And I just walk by the shop because… because I keep telling myself I'm gonna talk to him. Set things straight, you know?"
He shrugged, smiling. "That's… just too, too cute, Yamino-kun."
"I'm gonna hurt you."
"Sorry, sorry!" he laughed, holding his hands up in surrender. "So how come you haven't talked to him? I bet he's going nuts over who sent him that necklace, it's pretty good quality. You should just say you did it – start up a conversation, at least."
"Don't be funny."
"What are you talking about? Yuugi-kun likes me and I helped my dad kidnap him!" he said, then held up a finger, leaning forward with an evil smirk. "Besides, you never know. Yuugi-kun's not the most macho guy on campus, and it is kinda fashionable, these days…"
He gave him a look, annoyed, but when Otogi just returned it with one of his own, Atemu sighed. "Trust me, alright? He's straight. He's had a thing for Mazaki since middle school."
"So? He can play my game."
"I don't want him to play your game!" he cried, then lowered his voice when he realised he had attracted attention again. "Don't you get it? I want him to play my game. And only my game! I want him to be my game!"
"Thanks, but my sister made it up about two years ago," he said, and sighed, collapsing down into the chair he'd been leaning against. "I don't want him to be experimenting, I just want him to be… I dunno… mine."
"Egh, fair enough. But you never know until you try."
"I'd rather not fail miserably," he said wearily, folding his arms over the back of the chair. "And besides, how am I supposed to try? He's always with those friends of his, several of which crack their knuckles at the sound of my name, or at the game shop, and I know for a fact his family hates me."
"From age four to fourteen, he and I spent almost all our time together, until I suddenly woke up one morning and decided that I never wanted to have a civil conversation with him again."
Otogi grimaced, then blinked, his eyebrows rising in memory. "His grandfather's going out of town next week," he said thoughtfully. "Yuugi-kun said he'll have to mind the shop after school every day. You could go by then; pretend to need some new Duel Monsters cards."
He stared at him, unimpressed. "You can't be serious."
"He can't be serious," he muttered, staring up at the brightly painted building. He looked up and down the street again, searching for a way out, before he caught sight of Otogi, standing on the street corner and waving him onward. With his escape route cut off, Atemu groaned and turned back to the game shop.
He looked down at his watch, but his quickly thought of argument that Yuugi's mother might be still tending the shop was shot to pieces. It was almost four – Yuugi would have to have taken over by now.
"This is the dumbest thing I have ever done," he said, then took a deep breath and started forward. He made it to the other side of the street before he stopped again, a vision of Yuugi glaring at him suddenly swimming into his field of vision.
"Oh god…" he said, turning around again, only to find Otogi still grinning at him from the other side of the street. He stared at him, and Otogi cupped his hands around his mouth.
"Heart of a Pharaoh, lover-boy!"
That settled it. He was not staying out here to be embarrassed like that. He immediately spun around and dashed into the game shop, slamming the door as soon as he'd gotten inside.
A sudden stillness settled over the room behind him, the kind that only came after you suddenly stopped in the middle of a conversation. He clenched his eyes shut, cursing the fact he hadn't thought far enough ahead to know those clingy friends would keep him company, before he straightened and slowly turned around.
Yuugi was sitting on his usual shop stool, his mouth partly open, and Jounouchi was standing on the opposite side of the side counter, holding a Duel Monsters card high above his head like only tournament-players could. They were both staring at him blankly.
He jerked his thumb up, over his shoulder. "Weird – gotta – yeah…"
Yuugi blinked at him several times, before he finally recovered his shop manner. "Welcome to the shop!" he recited, then quickly turned back to his duel, eyes wide and cheeks flushing pink.
Jounouchi continued to stare at Atemu for a moment, before laying down his card. "—the magic card Scapegoat, and then sacrifice one for my Panther Warrior to attack Blockman."
Atemu swallowed, his gaze shifting around the store warily. No signs of family, and Jounouchi seemed to be the only friend around… this could work. He rubbed his palms down on his thighs, looking around. The game store looked exactly the way it always had, though it seemed different now that he had grown thirty odd centimetres. He shuffled over to one of the counters, gazing down at the little figurines. They hadn't stocked those before.
"Dammit, Yuugi, at least look like you're paying attention when you do that to a guy!" cried Jounouchi, and Atemu discreetly glanced over.
"Sorry," said Yuugi, quietly. "Silent Swordsman Level Four direct attack."
"My life points… Yuugi! You're so cruel!"
Atemu smiled to himself, taking a gaming magazine off the rack above his display cabinet. They hadn't stocked these before, either. He flicked through, then tucked it under his arm, moving over to a box of Duel Monster packs.
"Alright! I challenge you to a rematch!"
"Jounouch-kun, I don't really think fifth time is the charm… Why don't we play something else?"
"No way! If I can beat you, I'll be able to beat Kaiba! And I'm going to beat Kaiba!"
But by that point, Atemu had walked up to the counter, and Yuugi was no longer paying attention to Jounouchi. He was looking at his hands as he waited for Atemu to pile everything on the counter.
"Oh yeah, you play Duel Monsters, don't you Yamino?" said Jounouchi, and both Yuugi and Atemu stared at him. Yuugi opened his eyes as wide as he could, his right hand making a cutting movement down by his leg, but Jounouchi either didn't see it or didn't care. "We played before right?"
He hesitated, then straightened up to face him properly. "Yeah. Back in Duelist Kingdom," he said, smirking. Yuugi had always been impressed by his titles – even when they were just winner of the city-wide chess tournament. "I'm pretty good."
But Yuugi didn't seem all that impressed yet, so when Jounouchi challenged him to a duel, Atemu quickly accepted. Maybe if Yuugi saw him duel, he would realise that he wasn't just boasting. He pulled out his deck, shuffling quickly before swapping with Jounouchi.
"Gotta warn you though, Yamino. Yuugi's grandfather taught me how to duel, and I'm almost as good as Yuugi," said Jounouchi, grinning as he shuffled the cards. "Yuugi can beat Seto Kaiba easy."
He just smirked, looking at Yuugi sideways. His former friend was sitting a little hunched on his stool, avoiding his eyes as usual. "How about this then, Jounouchi?" he asked, handing over the cards. "Since we're both so sure we're gonna win, why don't we put a little wager on this? Loser has to buy a round of hamburgers."
Jounouchi grinned. "You sure? Yuugi's in on this and he eats a tonne of those things."
"You're the one buying."
"Sh'yeah right. You're on!"
Twenty minutes, two customers and four gained observers later, Jounouchi gaped at his cards, then up at Atemu. "How…?"
"Jounouch-kun, Yamino-kun wasn't just in Duelist Kingdom," said Yuugi quietly. "He won it. He defeated Pegasus."
Atemu looked around in surprise, while Jounouchi gaped. "He what?"
"I've told you that everytime you talked about dueling him," he said, before the crowd of observers suddenly rushed back around the counter, all holding starter and booster packs for Duel Monsters. While he dealt with them, Atemu smiled around at Jounouchi. "It was a good duel. Those gambling cards almost had me."
He smirked, flipping the coin he'd used. "Yeah. It all started when Yuugi gave me the Time Magician. Goddess of Luck and I've got a pretty good relationship."
"Heh. She barely flirts with me," he said, and Jounouchi nodded.
"Hey, man, look, sorry I gave you such a hard time in freshman year. I always thought you were a bit of a jerk, but you're pretty cool," he said, extending his hand for a quick shake. "Rematch some other time?"
"Any time. But I'm holding you to that hamburger," he said, before reaching into his bag to get his wallet. He waited for the minor crowd to leave before picking out some notes to pay for his all but forgotten booster packs and magazine. "One thousand, four hundred and seventy-five, right?"
Yuugi nodded, his eyes focussed somewhere near the door to his house, and Atemu slid two notes across the counter. Yuugi quickly worked the register for his change and receipt, but when he went to slide them back, Atemu caught his hand and he flinched, his eyes automatically flashing up to meet his gaze.
"Thank you," he said, reaching out with his other hand to cover Yuugi's completely. Jounouchi and Yuugi both stared at him, though for different reasons, but Atemu slowly slid his hands back, as if just cupping his change so it wouldn't fall. Yuugi yanked his hand back against his chest, still staring at him, and Atemu smiled, picking up his purchases. "I like your necklace," he said, and turned around to head out the door.
"Hey, what about the hamburgers?" called Jounouchi.
"Some other time!" he said, much quicker than intended, as he rushed outside.
Jounouchi raised an eyebrow. "Damn, I thought that guy was a bastard, but he's just plain weird," he said, turning back toward Yuugi. "What was that with the… Yuugi? You okay?"
He slowly pulled his hand back down to his thigh, turning back to his friend. His real friend, who had never turned his back on him, despite everything that had happened to them. "Yeah… Yeah, I'm fine."
Before they 'broke up', as it were, somehow a great deal of Yuugi and Atemu's posessions had migrated to the other person's house. Over the break between middle and high school, a box had mysteriously appeared on Atemu's bed, and though his parents clearly knew nothing about it, Dendera had made a point of saying she was oblivious.
The box had been full of all the clothes, games, manga and videos he had left at Yuugi's house.
He had tried to pack up all Yuugi's things in the same way, but every time he tried, he would get lost in a memory of one item or another, and spend the rest of the afternoon moping about how stupid he was. Once, when he had managed to get himself a relatively steady 'boyfriend' (though he hated to use the word, it sounded so ridiculous), he had actually finished packing the whole box up, and had even walked it over to the game shop, only to catch sight of Yuugi sitting on the footpath with Ryou Bakura. His resolve had crumbled and before he knew it, he was back at home, putting all the bits and pieces back around the house.
It was stupid, he knew, and he was being clingy, and dreaming impossible dreams, and he was acting like they had been some kind of married couple, but for some reason he just had to have hope.
The biggest thing of Yuugi's was a big, blue, stuffed rabbit. Their first festival where they had just gone on their own, they had spent twenty minutes just trying to get the stupid animal from a rigged game where you had to get the ball through the circle. Eventually, they had cheated, by Yuugi climbing up on Atemu's back and hurling the ball so fast that it actually cracked a few millimetres off the cardboard circle. The owner had agreed that cheating evened out cheating and gave them the rabbit. They tried to give it to Dendera, but she hated the colour blue that month, so Yuugi had been forced into owning it. Only he had never remembered to take it home.
So now Atemu sat back on his bed, fiddling with the rabbit's limbs as he considered his situation.
Now that Otogi knew, there was no way for him to just go on as he had been. Every time he went into school, Otogi was there, asking how it was going, offering to get him and Yuugi together, telling him what Yuugi had been up to lately…
"I don't suppose the idea of just going up and talking to him ever occurred to you?" he was always asking. "I know you say he hates you, and yeah, Jounouchi, Honda, Bakura and Anzu might all beat up on you for coming near them, but then you could play the battered sympathy card!"
Realistically, though, Atemu knew that was impossible.
He supposed, in some twisted universe, he could just explain the situation to Yuugi and hope he would understand – which he would, because Yuugi knew him better than anyone and would know how typical of him this whole thing was. But the problem was getting him to sit down and listen to him.
The rabbit's ears were slowly being twisted into an impossible knot, but Atemu's eyes were on the ceiling in deep thought.
Yuugi's birthday was coming up soon. He would be eighteen, and since they were leaving school, he might never see Yuugi again. That warranted a really good present, which Atemu could buy with the money he had won in different duelling competitions. But his parents had some lock on his bank account to keep him from spending too much, so buying the present would mean he wouldn't be able to go on the summer camp… which was not necessarily a bad thing, because Otogi kept hinting that Yuugi was going and it would be a perfect excuse to put the phrase 'sex on the beach' into practice.
He paused, his eyes glazing over a little as that phrase conjured up a few old dreams that he thought were long buried.
The rabbit was tossed aside as Atemu groaned, gripping his hair to keep himself from reliving why he had run in the first place.
"I will not go through this again…"
Part of a fic for you, a yummy review for me?